Teaching Ambassador Fellowship
2008 Alumni Washington Fellow
San Bernardino, California
Bio/Overview: Houtchens retired after nearly 40 years of teaching English and English language development. She now actively consults and provides professional development for teachers who work with English learners and urban students across the country. She has taught in the migrant labor camps south of Miami, in the D.C. Public Schools, and in a Oaxacan middle school. Houtchens taught high school English and ELD for over 20 years in San Bernardino, California, her hometown. In San Bernardino, Houtchens considered herself fortunate to work with an administration and staff who were passionate about students.
Educational Values/Philosophy: One of Houtchens’ mother’s most poignant immigration stories strongly influenced her desire to become a teacher and how she approaches the work. Newly arrived from Mexico City, Houtchens’ mother entered first grade speaking no English and was promptly escorted to the nurse’s office, scrubbed down head to toe, and sprayed with insecticide. She was seated with the other new immigrant children in class, and insecticide was sprayed down the aisle that separated immigrant students from the rest of the class. Houtchens never wanted other students to suffer the cruelties we sometimes commit in the name of education.
Achievements: Houtchens has published articles and presentations on English Language Learners and uses her background as the daughter of an immigrant to help others.
Leadership Experience: Houtchens did her student teaching so long ago that the university couldn’t find any ESL teachers at the secondary level who could serve as her master teacher, so she created her own program working with English learners at a local middle school. Houtchens was shocked to find they had all been placed in special education classes, the accepted practice at the time. This was the first of many challenging teaching assignments Houtchens had, each serving as inspiration to find better ways to educate children. As a U.S. Department Teaching Ambassador Fellow, Houtchens worked in the Office of English Language Acquisition. She has also served as a teacher trainer/mentor and as a UCLA Writing Project consultant. Currently she is on a committee for the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Science titled Fostering School Success for English Learners: Toward New Directions in Policy, Practice, and Research
Affiliations: National Council for Teachers of English, National Education Association, National Writing Project.
Education: Houtchens received both a B.A. and Licenciado from Elbert Covell College, an experimental college at University of the Pacific in California. This was a Spanish immersion college contrasting North America with South America. Houtchens finished with three majors: Latin American Politics, Teaching English as a Second Language, and Spanish. She also holds an M.A. in Bilingual/Bicultural Literacy from California State University San Bernardino, where she later served as an adjunct professor in the School of Education.
Areas of Interest/Expertise:
- ESL students/programs
- Latino students’ needs
- Cultural competency
- Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens identifies what she sees as the most important qualities a teacher should have.